50 Shades of Autumn in Reston

50 Shades of Autumn in Reston
Autumn on Lake Thoreau

Thursday, April 24, 2014

This is what "substantial completion" means to MWAA and WMATA

Below is the agreement MWAA has reached with WMATA detailing what MWAA's acceptance of DTP's submission that the Silver Line, Phase 1, is substantially complete.  What it shows in its appendices is that:
  • MWAA has to certify that more than one dozen corrections, fixes, improvements, and changes have been completed before turning the line over to WMATA for testing and training--its operational readiness date (ORD).
  • MWAA has to certify that 30 corrections, fixes, improvements, and changes have been made before WMATA will accept the project as complete.
  • MWAA commits to performing an additional seven tasks even after WMATA has accepted the rail line.
Nowhere is there any reference to any deal between MWAA and DTP about who will perform this work, when it will be done, and who will pay for it.  Moreover, there is no explanation from MWAA or its "funding partners" on who will absorb costs associated with completing the extensive and prolonged list of needed tasks.  There is also no documentation that indicates DTP is being penalized whatsoever for its late and incomplete work nor how any penalty revenues will be used. 

It all leaves us with the question:  Does "substantially complete" mean about the same thing as W's "Mission Accomplished!"???

Some unanswered questions on Silver Line "substantial completion"

We are hearing this morning from WAMU, RestonNow, and the Washington Post that MWAA is in the process of accepting DTP's work on Phase 1 of the Silver Line, possibly within 30 days.  Yet, there are several unanswered questions about this messy agreement:

1.  Does this mean that ALL the shortcomings found in the last two MWAA inspections of DTP's work (excluding the RTU replacement, which we know will take a year or so and another $1.8MM) will be satisfactorily corrected within a month?  If not, what does it mean?

2.  Why would WMATA--which has been on the grill for its poor safety and reliability record--even contemplate accepting a rail line (even for testing and training) that does not meet all the contractual requirements of "substantial completion"?

3.  Does this mean that DTP is paying $25,000 per day penalties for the late delivery of the project (after April 9, 2014)?
If "yes," then who is benefiting from the roughly three-quarters of a million dollars in penalties that may be forthcoming?  Are they being applied to the grotesque share of the Silver Line debt carried by Dulles Toll Road users?  If not, why not?
If "no," why isn't DTP paying a penalty for its late and shoddy work? 
4.   What are the specific terms of the various "side deals" that are needed to arrive at this Rube Goldberg "substantial completion" arrangement?

5.  What will be the impact of this near-bogus acceptance inspection process of MWAA's application for TIFIA financing, financing that could save toll road users as much as a third in huge future toll growth?

6.  Who will pay for the extra costs created by having people monitor the Silver Line trains rather than RTUs for the next year or so?  If not DTP, why?

7.  And, oh yes, when will the Silver Line to Reston be open for business????

UPDATED: Silver Line substantial completion???

UPDATE (10:37AM):  Here's is a new WAMU report on the Silver Line substantial completion:
The main contractor responsible for the first phase of the Silver Line has handed the project to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, signaling that the project is closer to completion and passenger service.
The first phase of the project had been delayed due to a number of problems, including faulty speakers and computer systems. Without fixes to these, MWAA had refused to take the project from the main contractor, Bechtel, the first step before Metro could take over and start passenger service.
WAMU's transportation reporter Martin Di Caro broke the story this morning, but warns that works still has to be done before Metro can start running full passenger service on the new line.
The report finishes with Martin DiCaro's series of tweets on the topic. 

DiCaro's tweets focus on a series of side deals enabling Silver Line construction acceptance and knowing full well that the Silver Line is not "substantially complete."  Even WMATA is involved.  Most needed repairs will be done in a month, but, as DiCaro says, "So if now you are asking when will #SilverLine open, the answer is I don't know. I am not in the guessing business, but summer is possible. . . However, considering all the work and testing that remains, it is irresponsible to throw dates out there, like July 4."

Talk about making a farce of an otherwise legitimate, and much needed, acceptance inspection process!


From Twitter:

BREAKING: An official with knowledge of negotiations says MWAA will accept Bechtel's submission of "substantial completion."
 We'll report more as Martin's report is corroborated.

This is not unexpected, but the acceptance has to have a number of strings attached because (a) the speaker and wiring system has not been replaced, (b) the RTUs won't be replaced for a year, and maybe more.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Get Involved In Reston's Future - Run For RCA, Colin Mills, RCA President

This is an important and exciting time for Reston.  As we celebrate our community’s 50th anniversary and our founder’s 100th birthday, we’ve been looking back at our past and ahead to our future.  And as we look ahead, it’s clear that major change is in store for our community. 

The Silver Line will soon be open, and that will trigger major redevelopment that will bring great opportunities and great challenges for Reston.  Our original village center, Lake Anne, is about to begin a major revitalization.  Our other village centers may have redevelopment awaiting them as well.  We’re going to see thousands of new residents and new jobs in the coming decades, which will bring new vitality, but also new demands on our infrastructure.  We’re going to need roads, schools, fields, parks, and open spaces for those new Restonians, and we’ll need to provide them with limited resources and without damaging the quality of life for existing Restonians.

There’s a lot going on! And it’s a great time to be involved.  There’s no better evidence of that then the large field of candidates (myself included) who ran in the recent Reston Association election.  If you’re interested in all the change in Reston and want to be involved, I’d encourage you to get involved in planning our community’s future by running for the RCA Board.

RCA and our 20/20 Committee have been on the front lines of the planning and development issues that are shaping our community.  We were active participants on Phase 1 of the Master Plan Task Force, and we’ll be back again for Phase 2.  We’ve done studies and issued papers on how to meet the transportation, recreation, and environmental needs of the coming development.  We’ve stood up for our citizens to protect our resources, whether that means standing up for our libraries or working with Rescue Reston to save Reston National Golf Course.  And we’ve held forums to inform our citizens and listen to their opinions on issues like the Master Plan and the proposed changes at Baron Cameron Park.

If you want to represent the community on the issues that will affect our future, there’s no better place to be than RCA.  We recently added some fresh voices to our Board; why not add yours too?

If planning and development isn’t your focus, don’t worry; RCA has a broader focus than that. Since 2008, our Reston Accessibility Committee has been a strong and tenacious advocate for Restonians with disabilities.  Our new Reston 411 series provides quick facts to keep our citizens up to speed on what’s going on.  And we're continuing to work hard on our community-positive traditions like the Citizen of the Year Award and our candidate forums.

If you have a community issue that you believe needs more attention, we’re always open to expanding our portfolio to better serve our citizens.  Join us and lead the way.  And we’ve planning to make a big push on improving our communications and fundraising in the next year; if you’re skilled in those areas, we’d love to have you on board.

Naturally, you’ll want to know about the candidacy requirements.  In order to run for a seat on the RCA Board, you must be at least 16 years old, and you must live in Small Tax District 5 (the tax district that funds the Reston Community Center).  That’s it.  It doesn’t matter whether you’ve lived in Reston for 30 days or 30 years, whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, what political party you belong to (RCA is non-partisan), or whether you’re younger or older (as long as you’re at least 16).  If you want to improve Reston’s quality of life, and you have the drive to get involved, you can throw your hat in the ring.

There are five seats up for election this year:  North Point Director, Lake Anne/Tall Oaks/Town Center Director, South Lakes Director, Hunters Woods Director, and At-Large Director.  How do you know which district you’re in?  It depends on where you vote in state and federal elections.  I’ve got a handy chart below:
  • North Point: If you vote in North Point, Stuart, or Aldrin Precincts (at Aldrin or Armstrong)
  • Lake Anne/Tall Oaks/Town Center: If you vote in Reston I, Reston II, Reston III, or Cameron Glen Precinct (at Lake Anne or Forest Edge)
  • South Lakes: If you vote in Sunrise Valley, South Lakes, or Terraset Precinct
  • Hunters Woods: If you vote in Dogwood Precinct, Hunter Woods Precinct, or Glade Precinct (at RCC Hunters Woods)
In order to run for a District Director seat, you must live in that district.  To run for At-Large Director, you may live anywhere in Small Tax District 5.  All Directors serve 3-year terms (this is a change that we’ve made this year to bring RCA in line with other Reston organizations like RA and RCC).

If you’d like to learn more about RCA and what we’ve been doing, you can read some of my past columns on Reston Now, or you can check out the RCA website. The candidate filing period opens on April 28th (next Monday) and closes on May 23rd, so don’t delay if you want to run.  The candidate form will be up on our website once the filing period opens.

Once you’ve filed as a candidate, then it’s time to start campaigning.  Thanks to the online voting system we implemented in 2012, it will be easier than ever for your supporters to cast votes.

If you love Reston and want to be involved during this exciting time, consider running for the RCA Board.  There’s a lot going on, and we need our citizens to be involved.  I hope you’ll take this chance to help shape Reston’s future.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gov. Terry McAuliffe gets a Silver Line update, Washington Post, April 22, 2014

Lori Aratani writes:
Officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will announce Thursday whether the contractor building the Silver Line rail project has completed its work — or whether it will need additional time beyond the 15-day review period to make that determination.
MWAA president and chief executive Jack Potter made the announcement following a closed-door meetingTuesday with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. At the meeting, the governor was given a status update on the much-delayed $5.6 billion Silver Line rail project, according to MWAA spokesman Chris Paolino.
McAuliffe (D) had requested the briefing last week following repeated reports of project delays. Among his primary concerns: passenger safety on the rail line as well as ensuring taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.
“The governor is comfortable about the status of the project and is encouraged that lessons were learned during Phase 1 that will better position the project as it moves into Phase 2,” said Rachel Thomas, a spokeswoman for the governor. . . .
Click here to read the rest of this article.

Fixing Metro's Silver Line may take a year, but trains running by summer possible, FOX 5, April 16, 2014

We missed this news item from FOX 5's John Henrehan, but it suggest how the Silver Line Phase 1 might proceed.
DULLES, Va. -The manager of the Silver Line project says communications devices along the roadbed are not reliable enough. He has proposed a "Plan B" fix, but that fix may take a year.

A spokesperson at Metro says the transit agency could still run trains to the new stations, but only if human operators are stationed in a control room along the right-of-way.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is overseeing the Silver Line project, has only a week to decide whether to accept the rail line from the companies that built it. . .
Dan Stessel, a spokesperson for Metro, told us replacing the circuit boards could take as long as a year, but Metro could still run trains on the Silver Line. According to Stessel, the Airports Authority has agreed to pay Metro to staff (with a human) the train control room on the new Silver Line right-of-way. That would last until all the circuit boards are replaced.
Well, the week has long since passed and we still haven't heard a word from MWAA, DTP, or WMATA on the status of the Silver Line's "substantial completion."  If this report is correct about proceeding without a fix of the RTU problem (which seems almost certain), the line may run like like rail and subway lines did a half-century ago--with visual control over the trains--for at least a year. 

And, by the way, of any extra costs MWAA agrees to pay WMATA for staffing, MWAA will actually pay only 4% of while DTR users will pay half under the inequitable "Funding Partners" agreement.  The rest will be paid by Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Click here for the rest of this article and the associated video. 

Will Governor announce "substantial completion" of Silver Line Phase 1--or NOT?

UPDATE:  Another alternative reason for the meeting with MWAA may be the signing of the final agreement between Virginia and MWAA to use the $300 million the state agreed to spend on Phase 2 of the Silver Line.  A lot of moving parts; stay tuned.  

WTOP reports that Virginia Governor Terry McAulliffe will meet with MWAA officials about the Silver line today.
WASHINGTON -- Gov. Terry McAuliffe is looking for more details about Northern Virginia's long-delayed Silver Line at a meeting with leaders of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Tuesday.
The agency is responsible for building both phases of the rail project that will eventually connect downtown D.C., Tysons Corner and Dulles International Airport.
The meeting comes nearly three weeks after the contractor building the first phase of the project to Wiehle-Reston East Station said for a second time that Phase 1 is "substantially complete."
MWAA representatives rejected the initial claim of substantial completion in February after multiple problems were found, including flaws with a communication link and a potential fire hazard with hundreds of new speakers. . .
An announcement on whether DTP (Bechtel and sub-contractors) have actually achieved "substantial completion" as claimed by DTP is days overdue.  It is hard to tell whether the delay is due to lining up all the political ducks in a row so that a fancy public announcement can be made, which is likely the case with the Guv in the area, or the beginning of an inquisition of MWAA and DTP because they failed to meet basic benchmarks in building the line.

We strongly suspect that an announcement of "substantial completion" will be forthcoming today, complete with photo op and great stories about achieving this goal only nine months late.  On the other hand, we also suspect that the announcement will not include the number of caveats and conditions that underlie this announcementl,starting with the fact that it will take another 2 years and $2 million to get the RTUs to work right (maybe) and the speaker & wiring systems have not yet been replaced as required from the last failed "substantial completion" attempt.

We suspect that "substantial completion" is no longer about meeting basic engineering standards; it is about a political deal.  Do you want to ride on a rail line approved by politicians rather than engineers?